Bulgaria v England – Leadership role is no issue for Harry Kane

Harry Kane insists he is ready to take on the pressure of leading both England and Tottenham and can point to his goalscoring record as Three Lions captain as proof.

England's Harry Kane scores his side's opening goal from the penalty spot on Friday. Picture: AP/Petr David Josek

The 26-year-old will take the armband at Spurs, with captain Hugo Lloris out for the rest of 2019 with a dislocated left elbow.

Last season’s beaten Champions League finalists are struggling for form at present and were thrashed 7-2 by Bayern Munich before suffering a 3-0 reverse at Brighton ahead of the international break. As well as being tasked with spearheading a revival for his club, Kane is also in the midst of firing England to European Championship qualification.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

His fifth-minute penalty put England ahead in the Czech Republic on Friday night but, despite knowing a win in Prague would have secured a berth at next summer’s finals, the hosts fought back to win 2-1.

England's players during their training session in Prague, Czech Republic on Sunday afternoon. Picture: AP/Petr David Josek

Gareth Southgate’s side face Bulgaria tonight and there is the potential for more weight to be added to Kane’s shoulders should any racist abuse take place at the Vasil Levski National Stadium.

Bulgaria fans were charged with racism in qualification games against the Czech Republic and Kosovo earlier in the year, which will see 5,000 seats closed off for the England clash as a UEFA anti-racism sanction.

But, despite the prospect of leading the team off the pitch in Sofia should such an incident occur, coupled with extra responsibilities at Spurs, Kane feels he is more than up to the task.

Asked if he was now under a lot of personal pressure, he replied: “I’m not too sure, I kind of just take that responsibility on.

“I have been doing it for a while now, obviously it doesn’t help when you don’t win on Friday night because it feels like you carry those losses with you and as players you want to win every game.

“From my point of view, I’m with the captain role at England and take that responsibility on, obviously I will be captain (at Spurs) for however long Hugo is out.

“But I have said before that my game doesn’t change, my personality doesn’t change.

“I am still the same person, I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that.

“I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.

“It is a long, old season for club and country ahead - a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.

“We are in one now as a club, hopefully we can win on Monday night for England and that will make Friday night less impactful and then I will go back to Spurs and take that in my stride and see how that progresses.”

Kane’s goal in the Czech Republic was his 20th as England captain, seeing him draw level with Bryan Robson and Alan Shearer for the number of times he has found the back of the net while wearing the armband.

He has scored seven across the five Group A qualifiers to date and another in Bulgaria would see him become the highest-scoring England skipper of the modern era – a statistic that Kane believes backs up his ability to lead the team.

“Yes, I think so,” he replied when asked if such a landmark shows how comfortable he is in the role of captain.

“As one of the leaders in the team and as a striker, I want to score goals and help the team in that way.

“It has worked out pretty well since I have been captain. But it is not just me who has to lead, there are other players in the team that definitely do that.

“We have a young team and an inexperienced team – we all try to help each other as much as we can. The defence are always talking, the midfield is always talking. The strikers are always talking about how can we get better. I have no issues in that role.”

Southgate, meanwhile, is confident his team can rebound from Friday’s setback.

“I don’t think defeats harm teams,” he said. “If the reaction is good, then what you learn from defeats, what you gain in resilience from defeats, are an important part of a player’s career and a person’s life.

“Maybe we were all focusing a lot on next summer, talking a lot about next summer, answering questions about a home tournament and I’ve always maintained that the first thing is we have to qualify. We haven’t secured that qualification yet.”